The Checklist is a multicultural, contemporary rom-com that centers around Dylan Delacroix, a type-A, corporate consultant with a plan for her life. That plan includes making partner at her firm and purchasing a condo in Texas with her boyfriend. It does not include dealing with her bohemian family and their longstanding feud with their straight-laced neighbors. However, that plan is derailed when she accidentally upstages her temperamental boss. Banished by her boss, she is forced to return to Seattle on a career-killing assignment to try and revive a struggling tech company. Once she is home, she is immediately sent to negotiate a peace with the neighbors. Between her client, her fizzling relationship, and her family, it is hard enough for Dylan to stay on track, but when she finds herself falling for the neighbors’ son, Mike, sticking to the plan becomes near impossible. As pressure mounts, Dylan has to decide if she wants to keep checking things off of her list, or if she needs a new plan entirely.
I love Dylan so much, even when she is messy and uptight! While coming up with her, I was inspired by the idea of a fish out of water. I think a lot of people are expected to grow up to be like Dylan—responsible, competent, and predictable. I wanted to play with the idea that what many of us are told is “normal” behavior could be absolutely bizarre to someone else.
To write Dylan, I borrowed a few things from my life (take that terrible exes!). Like Dylan, I do make lists anytime I feel like things are getting a little chaotic, although I love colored markers and glitter, and Dylan would never sully a list with glitter. Both of us are Janet Jackson devotees—seriously, do not get me started on how much credit I think she deserves for normalizing female sexuality or we could be here all day. Also, both of us have perfected the OMG-this-is-bad smile. At this stage, my coworkers can spot “the smile” a mile away and know to ask what is wrong (or, maybe they know to hide from me?).
Unlike Dylan, I’m not named for a 60s folk singer (I actually have a family name and I love it). Nor do I have an awesome corporate wardrobe (I’m a skirts and dresses with pockets kind of girl). Similarly, none of our family dogs were as well behaved as Milo, who is not well behaved so that is saying something. Our family once had a German Shepherd who chewed up three couches when we weren’t home. Feathers were everywhere. That dog was so naughty and we loved her like she was made of gold.
The biggest thing that we have in common is that both of us have loving, albeit quirky families. My family is not composed of visual artists (with the exception of my Aunt Bob), but we are creative. Like Dylan’s family, my parents gave us a lot of freedom. We had one real rule, you had to be kind. Other than that, the rules were kind of a hodgepodge of different parenting philosophies. One of my favorite childhood “rules” came from the James Brown song, Hot Pants. My parents would frequently quote the lyric, “Never let anyone tell you how to wear your pants.” To them, it meant that no one in the family could tell you how to dress. It also meant that I wore overalls and Doc Martens at least three days a week throughout high school. Thanks, mom and dad.
To wrap it up, I hope that readers see a little bit of themselves and the people they love in this book. I also hope that readers get a break from the real world and fall in love with the Delacroix family, Mike, and Dylan—lists and all.
Killing it at work? Check. Gorgeous boyfriend? Check. Ambitions derailed by an insecure boss? Sigh—check.
Things were going a little too well for Dylan Delacroix. After upstaging her boss on a big account, she gets dispatched to the last place she wants to be: her hometown, Seattle. There, she must use her superstar corporate-consulting skills to curb the worst impulses of an impossibly eccentric tech CEO—if she doesn’t, she’s fired.
The fun doesn’t stop there: Dylan must also negotiate a ceasefire in the endless war between her bohemian parents and the straitlaced neighbors. Adding to the chaos is a wilting relationship with her boyfriend and a blossoming attraction to the neighbors’ smoking-hot son.
Suddenly Dylan has a million checklists, each a mile long. As personal and professional pressures mount, she finds it harder and harder to stay on track. Having always relied on her ability to manage the world around her, Dylan’s going to need a new plan. She may be down, but she’s definitely not out.
“Dear God. Are they trying to signal someone in outer space?” Setting her book down, Dylan unpretzeled herself from the armchair she’d been installed in. Quietly she opened her bedroom door to survey the rest of the house’s response to the neighbor’s giant motion light.
“I told you so! Now, do what you must.” Bernice’s mocking voice floated up three stories. Dylan marveled at her hearing the bedroom door open over her dad’s experimental Ghanaian drum-circle music.
“I’m on it,” Dylan called back before slinking down the stairs and grabbing her heels from over by the door. “‘Do what you must.’ Who says that?” she mumbled as she reached for the handle, already regretting how quickly she’d caved. What had she said to her mother? Something about her age and independence? Obviously, that wasn’t true.
Cursing herself, she closed her parents’ door and began the slog to the Robinsons’ house. Although modestly painted and well landscaped, the house wasn’t entirely dissimilar to her parents’ home. However, it was scientifically impossible for the family living inside of the house to have less in common with her own. Linda and Patricia Robinson were both tech-industry big shots in their own right. Linda was a patent attorney and the recent recipient of the Latina Bar Association’s Trailblazer Award, a fact she never failed to mention. Patricia was an accomplished programmer and volunteer youth-cheerleading coach who’d even made the cover of American Cheerleader magazine when her all-Black squad had pulled a real-life Bring It On–style competition victory. Both had come through the tech boom when the industry had still employed few women, and they took absolutely no shit from anyone—including Dylan’s parents. Dylan believed her parents objected more to the Robinson women’s love of golf than their jobs. As far as Bernice was concerned, golf was like standing for hours in a glorified front lawn.
The Robinsons had two boys around Dylan’s age, and she had been jealous of the entire family growing up. They’d gone to church and played organized sports, their clothes had always matched, and their mothers had joined the PTA. Dylan’s dad had endured a short stint with the PTA, but the Delacroix didn’t do organized anything. If Dylan had left the house wearing something that matched, it was by accident.
Distracted by the past, Dylan had stopped paying attention to where she was walking until her foot sank into the divot near a storm drain, filling her heel with water. She cursed, her heart thwapping in her chest. Visions of her father toilet papering the neighbors’ house ran unchecked through her head. As did the memory of her mother nailing the police citation to the Robinsons’ door when it had arrived in the mail a week later. Dylan thought this was a tame response where Bernice was concerned, but it led to the Robinsons sending boxes of craft-store glitter to the house. The Robinsons had lost that round, and the joke was on them, because her mother loved glitter. It had appeared in several of her most lauded collages that year, which she’d named for Linda and Patricia Robinson when she’d taken out an ad in the Seattle Times to feature the work.
Ignoring the panic sweat forming on her palms, Dylan knocked on the door, then frowned, looking down at her soaked woolen pant leg. If she didn’t dry-clean those ASAP, they were going to reek.
“One minute.” She had barely registered a man’s voice when the door swung open. “Hello.”
“Uh. Hi.” Dylan’s voice cracked.
Mike was, if possible, better looking than the last time she had seen him. His thick hair had been cut short, highlighting his high cheekbones and the ambient glow of his golden-brown skin. Time had turned him into the sort of made-for-TV manly pretty that seemed unfair for one person to achieve. The vaguely chiseled features and broad-shouldered Latino archetype that beer commercials aspired to.
Aware that she needed to state her purpose, Dylan said the first thing she thought—“You still live here?”—and instantly regretted her decision.
“No, I’m visiting. Do you still live here?” Mike asked with an incredulous laugh. The Robinsons’ younger son filled up what felt like the entire doorframe, with one arm on the handle and the other resting comfortably on the jamb, as if being the J.Crew catalog guy were no big deal.
“I’m staying with my parents while I’m here for a work assignment. How are you?” Dylan smoothed a hand over the hem of her blouse and collected herself.
“Great. I live in Capitol Hill. I’m finishing my PhD at the U-Dub. I basically come here to bum dinner off my parents.” He smiled, and Dylan wished he still had braces. Braces had made him just above-average looking in high school. Now, hazel eyes and straight teeth made him uncomfortable to be around. Or maybe that was the vast amount of water in her shoe.
“I’m sorry. My dad’s drum circle carries all the way over here. I forgot how loud it is.” Dylan gestured around the front door with a nervous laugh.
“We’ve gotten used to it. Do you want to come in?” He stopped leaning on the frame and took a step back to let her in.
“Thank you. I . . .” Dylan nodded, then paused as her shoe squelched. Panic left the little corner of her brain and seeped all the way to its outer edges as she tried to find a graceful retreat. If she walked in, she would track muddy water into the Robinsons’ otherwise spotless home, further cementing her place in the Worst Neighbor Hall of Fame. “Actually, I really shouldn’t.”
Mike must have sensed her guilt, because his face relaxed into an easy smile. “No worries; I wouldn’t want to be seen entering the home of the enemy either.”
“Oh no. It’s not that.” Dylan rushed to explain herself before she was firmly entrenched in Camp Dreadful Delacroix. “It’s just, my shoe is full of storm drain water, and your house is always spotless, and I don’t want to track it in.” She pointed erratically at her heel, which seemed more absurd now that she was drawing attention to it. What kind of Seattleite wore expensive shoes in this weather? “I promise I’m still significantly less strange than the rest of my family. Shoe thing aside.” She let her hands drop helplessly to her thighs.
To her horror, Mike started laughing, his face cracking into a lopsided grin. “Why don’t you dump your shoe out and come in? My parents are picking up dinner, so we don’t have to tell them about the averted carpet disaster.”
“That is probably the most reasonable option,” she admitted, adopting a woman-as-flamingo pose as she tried to take off one heel while still wearing the other.
Wobbling precariously close to a fall, Dylan threw her hand out to catch the front of the house, but instead she caught the lean muscle of Mike’s bicep as he grabbed her forearm to keep her from toppling over. Appreciating the feel of muscle under the cotton dress shirt he wore, Dylan grabbed her heel and pulled. He likes the gym, she thought, smiling. Those don’t just happen overnight…
Born and raised outside Seattle, Washington, Addie Woolridge is a classically trained opera singer with a degree in music from the University of Southern California, and she holds a master’s degree in public administration from Indiana University. Woolridge’s well-developed characters are a result of her love for diverse people, cultures, and experiences.
Woolridge currently lives in Northern California. When she isn’t writing or singing, Woolridge can be found baking; training for her sixth race in the Seven Continents Marathon Challenge; or taking advantage of the region’s signature beverage, wine.
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